A theatre artiste invites an audience to read aloud their personal correspondence, and a love letter that Karl Marx wrote to his wife, in a new performance
A guest reads a letter at The Reading Room. Pics courtesy/Anuja Ghosalkar
Before the performance begins, Anuja Ghosalkar steps in front of a 10-member audience and declares that she is the 'postmistress' for the evening. She carries envelopes, which contain letters that guests carried with them to the venue. She distributes them at random, inviting each person to read them aloud. For an hour, the room is filled with different voices and diverse narratives as each member reads to a bunch of strangers in an intimate setting. This comprises the Bengaluru-based theatre artiste's new performance project, The Reading Room. Produced by her documentary theatre company, Drama Queen, it comes to Mumbai next week.
Letters curated for a performance
The idea of the performance emerged from her earlier production, Lady Anandi, where Ghosalkar used her family archive to tell the story of her great-grandfather and 19th-century theatre actor, Madhavrao. "It revealed a lot about my family history. I wanted to push that idea and invite people to share something from their lives. It gets more exciting when a stranger reads the words you may have written," says Ghosalkar, who blurs boundaries between the audience and performer with this project. "There is an absolute honesty when non-actors read." Since December, she has curated six performances in Bengaluru.
While there is no selection criteria for audience letters, they need to be in English and not more than four minutes long. She also invites the audience to read letters that she has sourced from books, online archives, friends and borrowed from the public domain.
One of them is a love letter that Karl Marx wrote to his wife, which Ghosalkar received from her writer-director friend, Asmit Pathare. "The language in that in unlike any love letter one has read. There's also a letter from the National Centre of Biological Sciences, where a female scientist wrote about the role of women in science. It is short and succinct. The idea is to include diverse narratives. At the end of each performance, I request people to donate their letters to me, if they agree. Letters are a great archive of stories and histories," she sums up.
ON: August 1, 6 pm and 7.30 pm
AT: The Mumbai Assembly, KCA Hall, 16 Veronica Road, Bandra West.
ENTRY: Rs 150 (by registration only)
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